Stephane Ratel is happy with the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup field this season despite this weekend’s grid being the smallest for the series since Zandvoort in 2015.
The 20 full-season Sprint Cup cars have been joined by an extra AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 and a Boutsen Ginion-run Lamborghini Gallaro R-EX for this weekend’s season opener at Zolder.
After regularly reaching grids of over 30 cars in the past two seasons, it is considerable downsize for the Sprint Cup, and has been linked to the growth of the ADAC GT Masters series.
“I’ve always said, in my opinion, a perfect Sprint grid is 24 cars and 36 in Endurance,” SRO Motorsports Group Founder and CEO Ratel told Endurance-Info.
“Sprint Cup is a real challenge because you have to be as quick as possible to change tires. This has been the case since GT1.
“Now, it takes two full-time [crew] who are doing just that. I realize we lost a few cars because of that. The bar is high. However, the number of entries in Endurance remains important.”
The Sprint Cup has lost the likes of ROWE Racing, Bentley Team M-Sport, Strakka Racing and Rinaldi Racing, all of which are only entering the Endurance races this year.
HTP Motorsport and ISR, meanwhile, have left Blancpain GT altogether and instead are focusing their European GT3 efforts on GT Masters, which is set for grids in excess of 35 cars.
The German-based series has adopted the SRO’s Balance of Performance this season, uses the same Pirelli tires as Blancpain GT, and now a similar format to the Sprint Cup with two equal 60-minute races each weekend with a mandatory driver change.
“There is a pendulum movement and we do not have a monopoly,” said Ratel. “With so many cars, that’s a lot of people who do not win and look elsewhere.
“We saw it in ADAC GT Masters. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the pendulum movement. It’s a set of factors.”
One team fully committed to the Blancpain GT Series is Grasser Racing Team, which is set for full-scale programs in both Blancpain GT and GT Masters.
The Austrian operation has entered three Lamborghini Huracan GT3s for the full Blancpain GT season and GT Masters, with many of its drivers competing in both series.
Reigning Blancpain GT drivers’ champion Mirko Bortolotti is one of them, and he has high praise for the situation in which GT Masters finds itself.
“I would not say [GT Masters] is better; it’s different, but at the same time similar,” he told Sportscar365. “A lot of the competitors that race in the Blancpain series race in ADAC as well. You meet the same faces every weekend.
“The series itself, over the last few seasons, the quality has been really strong and it’s growing, just as in Blancpain. Now, also the quantity is growing in ADAC.
“Now we have around 36 or 37 cars on the grid, so it’s going to be a lot of action and it’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to ADAC as well.
“It’s a championship that is a high priority for us as well, so let’s see.”
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT team boss Vincent Vosse remains quietly optimistic about the state of the Sprint Cup and believes it would be inaccurate to draw too many comparisons with GT Masters.
“I think it will pick up,” he told Sportscar365. “It was probably exceptional to have so many cars in Sprint last year.
“I think a very good sprint championship is around 26 or 28 cars, and this is probably the best you can get.
“I know everyone is talking about the ADAC GT Masters having more cars, but it’s a national championship, it’s cheaper, it’s easier for the team and it’s less professional.
“It is a very German championship and probably most of the drivers are from Germany so for them it’s easier to get the budget.
“It is a very high profile championship for the drivers, but for the teams, it is probably a bit easier because it’s a national championship and you’re not travelling that much.
“For Blancpain Sprint, if you get around 26 cars, this, for me, would be a very strong championship.”
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report